Photographer George Steinmetz has won numerous awards for his distinctive photography. As a regular contributor to 'National Geographic' magazine, he is almost constantly traveling somewhere new. Unlike many photographers who take pride in being extremely close to their subjects, however, Steinmetz prefers to shoot from above the fray. Really far above it, in fact, using a custom-designed, motorized paraglider. The resulting images (which have been collected in three books: 'African Air,' 'Empty Quarter,' and 'Desert Air'), are stunning and feature utterly transporting, rarely seen perspectives of our planet, with a particular focus on the beauty and danger of the world's extreme deserts.
RELATED: 'Driven,' Episode 3: 'George Steinmetz: The Flying Photographer' (VIDEO)
The technology of photography has completely changed since Steinmetz first began shooting professionally 30 years ago; the techniques haven't, according to Steinmetz. For him, photography is less about the tools and more about passion, point of view, and craft. "There's a language to photography and you have to be in control of it," he says. "You may have a zoom lens, but that doesn't mean anything. What are you trying to say as a photographer?" Before you can dream big, though, you have to learn the fundamentals of your tools. We asked Steinmetz to offer his insights. He took time off from a shoot in China to guide us through a mini master class of what it takes to snap great photos.
Shoot on cloudy days.
One of the biggest mistakes a beginning photographer will make is to assume the best photos are captured when the sun is blazing. In fact, that can be the worst time to shoot, because the bright, harsh light blows out detail or creates unwanted shadows on your subject, for instance, across a person's face. Instead, Steinmetz recommends shooting either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the light is the softest. You'll get even better results, he says, when the sky is overcast. "Bad weather is really a photographer's best friend," Steinmetz says. Clouds across the sun are like putting a giant soft box on a studio light to produce soft and pleasing results for portraits.
Credit: Photograph by Ant Green